Lil Baby really is an overnight success. After coming home from a two year prison bid on a probation violation, Quality Control's co-founder Pierre "Pee" Thomas convinced the then-21-year-old to embark on a rap career. This proved to be a fruitful decision.
Having never rapped before, that same year, the 23-year-old bubbling MC released solid street efforts such as Perfect Timing, Harder Than Hard and Too Hard, solidifying his underground credibility and laying the foundation for a promising career. Since his breakout year, the "Stendo" rapper has worked with the likes of Drake, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, PnB Rock and others.
With his Drake-assisted banger, "Yes Indeed," still making rounds in the streets and clubs, Lil Baby stopped by VIBE's office to discuss his debut album Harder Than Ever (released May 18), his quick rise to fame and life after rap.
VIBE: How did the collaboration with Drake happen? Was he in Atlanta and hit you up? Because I know he’s known for FaceTiming and making it known that he wants to work with people he really rocks with.
Lil Baby: We was already cool. We’d, you know, chop it up. So it was already in store. But he ain’t never press it and I ain’t never press it, like ‘send me a record.’ And I wasn’t just like sending him a bunch of sh*t or nothing. One day he was just like, ‘I got something for you. I’m finna send it.’ He sent it and I did it."
It sounds like you referenced future songs with him on “Yes Indeed.” Do you two have more on the way?
Definitely! That’s my dog. I f**k with Drake. That’s the homie.
You seem to have a deep relationship with Young Thug’s Young Stoner Life (YSL) label.
Well, you know, them my dogs before rap. Same thing with QC. I was already running with QC and YSL before I never rapped or anything. So now that I rap it wasn’t anything. I’m just doing what I do.
I remember reading somewhere that you didn’t even want to be a rapper and that Pee and Coach K had to convince you for years to start to do it.
Yeah, yeah. More Coach K. He was like, ‘I see it in you. You could be a star.’ He seen something in me that I didn’t see, though.
How’d that come about, though? Because we’re both about the same age. How did you being so young even get involved with them? Like being in those crowds and working with those people being as you weren’t a rapper? Just having a cool personality, running in the same circles or what?
Yeah, you know, just being in Atlanta for real. You know what I’m saying. Just being there and out you gonna see them.
From the outside looking in, it seems like there's lots of camaraderie in Atlanta, is this true?
Nah, there’s real beef. And it be real beef, so it never makes it to media. Some of these rapper dudes, they ‘hoods on fire. But it don’t never be in the media because it’s real. Know what I’m saying?
Do you think going to jail at such a young age has impacted how you rap and your style of rapping?
Oh, definitely Jail impacted my whole life.
'Cause now I think different. I live different. Everything different about me because prison. I’m not trying to go [back] there.
That’s why you stop drinking lean, right? Because of probation?
Oh, hell nah, hell nah, hell nah! I stopped drinking lean because I ain’t trying to die! That sh*t deeper than jail.
[Laughs] But, you said on Vlad that you stopped drinking because of probation?!
That was a lie! [Laughs] Yeah, I ain’t on probation no more. But I don’t drink lean no more for real, though. When I was on probation, I had to stop drinking lean for like a week or two so that I can be clean. But it would be a week or two, then back on it.
But that week or two is major.
Yeah, see I ain’t think about it. I just ain't want it no more. Want to know the real reason I quit? That sh*t started making me sick. So it was easy for me to stop drinking lean because every time I be on the drink, for the last little week I was drinking, I’d be throwing up. Feeling down. I was like, ‘damn I gotta kick something. It was the drink.’ And it coulda just been a bad pint I had, but it made me not want to f**k with it no more.
I want to know what goes on behind the scenes of your career. What you don't get to see. To us, it seems like the stars are aligning perfectly.
Everything aligning perfectly, but it's still hard work. My story is going to be completely different than someone else's story in terms of hard work. What I might feel like is hard work, another person is dying to do. This date, this state, day-to-day. To me, that’s hard work 'cause I’m up, phone ringing, ain’t getting no sleep. I got this title now, I got to answer to this, they calling. It becomes a lot on your shoulders. It’s a job—it’s a career at that. So there’s a lot with it.
I feel that, but like you said there are people dying to do this, so that’s a good way of looking at it. You’re still growing as an artist, so what’s next for you?
I'm changing every day as far as this rap thing. I'm learning new things. I'm getting bigger by the day. So, I can't even give you a game plan or blueprint or nothing. I couldn't. I don't even know how it's gonna go. But I'm going to shoot for the stars for sure, though.
Do you have an end goal? What do you want to get out of this?
The money. [Laughs] But there’s something I want to do with the money too, though.
It ain’t got nothing to do with the music—well it could have something to do with the music—but invest. My whole thing is not to get the money in the rap and blow it on the car, clothes, and jewelry—this type of stuff [Ed. Note: Lil Baby touches the close to seven diamond-encrusted chains he is wearing]. Nah, my plan is to build a real foundation off the rap. That’s what I see out of it.
And if I could help some people, change some people’s lives all that, too. But for me personally, it’s a foundation. Even with my music. It’s a foundation to help people get through it. Give ‘em a vibe. Get them to have a good time. All that type of stuff.
Being so close to Pee for so long, you ever see yourself in a CEO position like Pee?
Yeah, yeah. I’m more of leaning towards that than an "older rapper." I got a boss mentality. I see myself having 10 artists, 3 or 4 artists being like the hottest artists in the world. Them type. Yo Gotti and them, you know? I’m a rapper but I’m more of a hustler. I know I can’t rap forever, but I know as long as I got a label or something I can get money forever. I’m more on that type of time.
Stream Harder than Ever below.